City Council Weighs in on Future of Hastain Trail

The Beverly Hills City Council weighed in on the future of the Hastain Trail, the popular Franklin Canyon hiking trail that became the subject of a contentious fight involving mega-developer Mohamed Hadid.

The trail, which abuts Beverly Hills on two sides, falls within the property lines of five of six lots owned by Hadid, on which he had planned for years to build a sprawling gated compound complete with three guard towers and a helipad. But after defaulting on loans and declaring bankruptcy, a bankruptcy court will decide on Sept. 1 whether to auction off all the properties together or to sell only two of the lots. 

On Aug. 17, the City Council passed a resolution in support of keeping all the properties together and preserving the public’s right to use the trail, declaring that the trail “preserves natural resources and wildlife habitats, protects clean air, provides opportunities for recreation, and provides open space for current and future generations.”

“The City of Beverly Hills supports keeping the Hastain Trail as open space for the benefit of the public and environment,” the resolution reads. The resolution adds that the city “supports the sale and bidding procedures for all six of the [lots] in order to preserve the Hastain Trail as open space for the benefit of the public.”

For at least 65 years, untold numbers of hikers, bicyclists, equestrians, and dog-walkers have trekked, peddled, trotted, and tail-wagged their way up and down the Hastain Trail. The 1.5 mile path begins at Coldwater Canyon Drive and runs to Lake Drive in Franklin Canyon, granting easy access to Beverly Hills residents. While most of the trail sits on public property, certain segments cut through privately owned land, including land owned by Hadid.

Hadid, the father of models Gigi and Bella Hadid, has a somewhat notorious reputation for his outsize developments in some of Los Angeles’ ritziest neighborhoods. In 2017, Hadid was ordered to do community service and pay fines after pleading no contest to criminal charges related to a colossal development in Bel Air. Prosecutors in the case accused Hadid of constructing a mega-mansion on Strada Vecchia Road far larger than permitted by the city. 

In 2011, Hadid began work on an expansive vision for his Franklin Canyon properties–11 estates, a stable for horses, a helipad, and three guard towers with living quarters of their own. The work caught the attention of trail regulars, including Ellen Scott, who sat in front of a bulldozer to impede the project’s progress, according to the Los Angeles Times and court records. When that didn’t work, Scott took Hadid to court under the auspices of a group she formed with other hikers, Friends of the Hastain Trail. After five years, an appeals court sided with Hadid. 

In spite of the win, financial losses and growing debts weighed the project down until Hadid defaulted on loans and declared bankruptcy earlier this year. On Sept. 1, a bankruptcy court will decide whether to auction the properties as a bundle, or to auction only two of the lots. The latter scenario “significantly lowers the possibility of maintaining the continuity of the Trail,” according to the resolution.

Councilmember John Mirisch recounted hiking the trail for years, rhapsodizing about the views from the top where you can see Catalina Island on a clear day. “One of the things that makes our region so great is the proximity to pristine and beautiful nature trails,” he said. “What a shame it would be if this would be lost for profit.” 

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